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Papers of the Week

Papers: 25 Feb 2023 - 3 Mar 2023

Basic Science

Animal Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology

Musculoskeletal Pain

2023 Feb 05

Int J Mol Sci




An Injectable Engineered Cartilage Gel Improves Intervertebral Disc Repair in a Rat Nucleotomy Model.


Bhujel B, Yang SS, Kim HR, Kim SB, Min BH, Choi BH, Han I


Lower back pain is a major problem caused by intervertebral disc degeneration. A common surgical procedure is lumbar partial discectomy (excision of the herniated disc causing nerve root compression), which results in further disc degeneration, severe lower back pain, and disability after discectomy. Thus, the development of disc regenerative therapies for patients who require lumbar partial discectomy is crucial. Here, we investigated the effectiveness of an engineered cartilage gel utilizing human fetal cartilage-derived progenitor cells (hFCPCs) on intervertebral disc repair in a rat tail nucleotomy model. Eight-week-old female Sprague-Dawley rats were randomized into three groups to undergo intradiscal injection of (1) cartilage gel, (2) hFCPCs, or (3) decellularized extracellular matrix (ECM) ( = 10/each group). The treatment materials were injected immediately after nucleotomy of the coccygeal discs. The coccygeal discs were removed six weeks after implantation for radiologic and histological analysis. Implantation of the cartilage gel promoted degenerative disc repair compared to hFCPCs or hFCPC-derived ECM by increasing the cellularity and matrix integrity, promoting reconstruction of nucleus pulposus, restoring disc hydration, and downregulating inflammatory cytokines and pain. Our results demonstrate that cartilage gel has higher therapeutic potential than its cellular or ECM component alone, and support further translation to large animal models and human subjects.